Location120 South San Pedro Street
Los Angeles, California
Kong Thao and his family run Thao Farms in Fresno, California. Everyone loves Kong.
Shawn Pham comes to the Hollywood farmers’ market every Sunday, but when I first ate at Simbal I’d never met him. I wanted to go because everything he serves is stuff that I ate as a kid at home, but it’s done in a way that I like to eat as an adult now. They do these ribs: it’s the same flavors as my mom’s version, but when Mom cooks them she just takes a big slab of ribs, seasons it, and grills it. Theirs is cut up all nice and really well presented. You think it’s going to have some big bold flavors, but nope, it tastes just like how Mom used to cook.
And their bánh mì! I grew up eating bánh mì, but the one at Simbal is in salad form. For me, the most important part of the bánh mì is the bread, and his salad has a lot of good croutons in the right proportions. The pâté is there, too, but it’s deep-fried in little balls.
The steak tartare is also really good. It reminds me of the tartare we had growing up. We raise all our own animals on the farm and slaughter them ourselves and make tartare with the fresh beef. Simbal’s is like that, only more grown-up, with puffed bread and larb spices.